God isn’t about changing our circumstances, He’s about changing our hearts

By Jesse Horton / Cowboys of the Cross

2 Corinthians 4:8-11
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

Too often, people come to faith in Christ expecting that their relationship with God will make everything come up roses; God will fix all our problems and give us the happy lives he wants us to have. While it sounds nice, that’s a false gospel. Jesus promised we would have trouble (John 16:33) and that we would even be hated for our faith (John 15:18-19). The fact is that we live in a fallen world…one where “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) frustrate us, steal our productivity, and even choke us out altogether if we aren’t careful to cultivate our hearts to receive God’s word (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23). So how does a relationship with God make things better?

Justin McKee recently said in a YouTube devotional called “Mud mud mud” that God isn’t about changing our circumstances. He’s about changing our hearts by giving us a warrior’s heart that can face the challenge of any circumstance. That’s really important, because everyone, regardless of their faith, will face hard times. If you aren’t currently on hard times, you’ve either just come out of something or you’re on your way into something that will challenge you…maybe even rock you to your core.

The passage from 2 Corinthians above tells us the result of our hearts being changed by God. Christians experience all the hardships of life that everyone else experiences…maybe even more; but we have been given the Holy Spirit so that we might show the world the conquering Spirit of Jesus. Jesus conquered hate with love, calmed the wind and waves with His words, and rose victorious from a death of shame and ridicule. “Cowboy up” doesn’t even come close to describing the grit demonstrated by His life, death, and resurrection…and that’s the kind of grit he wants to demonstrate in our lives through faith in Him (demonstrated by obedience), not so that everyone will see how tough we are, but so that everyone will see that there are no circumstances into which the grace and power of God cannot reach.

Becoming more like Jesus is not for sissies! When the pain seems too much to bear, remember there is a sweet and eternal reward for faithfulness that is WORTH IT! The next time your circumstances seem to be more than you can handle, remind yourself that Jesus didn’t die to make your circumstances better; He died to make you better for your circumstances! Be faithful, and trust God with the results!

It’s God’s plan that matters. We can chase conspiracy theories or scripture for truth

It’s God’s plan that matters. We can chase conspiracy theories or scripture for truth

By Josh McCarthy / Cowboys of the Cross

Unless you’ve been practicing your social distancing in a hole somewhere, chances are that you’ve heard some interesting ideas about the cause or who’s behind the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone from right, left, or center of the political scale has some idea or theory as to who’s to blame and why.

I want to first go on record saying that I personally think there has to be a middle road between thinking, “This is just like the flu or not even real,” and, “We need to buy every store out of toilet paper and if you step out your door you must hate everyone else on the planet!” To paraphrase ol’ Martin Luther, most people are like drunks: they fall off one side of a horse only to climb back on and fall off the other side. I think we all need to sit our horse right and get a little balance.

One thing this pandemic has brought to light is our fascination with conspiracy theories. Now the more harmless of these “what if” stories are interesting and some may be fun to ponder, but I think as Christians we need to be careful how much we let wild speculation on past and present events affect our thinking and everyday lives.

The thing about most conspiracy theories – like those surrounding the coronavirus – is that the people who believe in them usually think they have some secret knowledge that most “sheeple” don’t see (which is pretty prideful, don’t you think?). They can also involve a lot of accusations against people we either disagree with politically or just plain don’t like. On that last point, I want to remind us as Christians of a couple Scriptural principles. Luke 6:27-28 says: “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.

Or consider 1 Peter 2:1: So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

Now, do I think people with a lot of power, politically or otherwise, probably do some shady things? Yeah, sure: they’re sinful humans like the rest of us, and hold power in a fallen world. But we already know Planned Parenthood murders babies. We already know the DNC supports abortion in a variety of ways. We know some Republicans have fallen into the sin of greed. We know certain celebrities, sports stars, and various influential people support a lot of sinful lifestyles, so why do we need to add the idea that they must all be working together in some massive plot to destroy the American way of life? As Christians, we believe God is in control of all things.

Colossians 1:16-17 tells us: For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

History has an over-arching theme throughout all of it. It all serves to bring God ultimate glory in the saving of His people through the work of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. Jesus’s death on the cross on Good Friday was for the sins of His people. He received the punishment for sin that we deserved. He rose from the dead three days later, on Easter Sunday, to bring us, through the work of the Holy Spirit, into God’s family as sons and daughters of the Most High God.

You want to know the whole plan behind everything? That’s it. We don’t need to dig into some article on the internet to figure it out, because God put it all in the Bible. Maybe we all (myself included) should be taking this time we have in self-isolation to be focusing on that. I’m not suggesting you spend your time reading the book of Revelation or Daniel to try to figure out if Trump or Obama is the anti-Christ, but that we actually take time to read the Scriptures for what they are, and do our best to read them in the proper context. They are God’s Word to us, in which He tells us the way to know and love Him. And in loving Him, we learn to love our neighbors, whether they are hacking up a lung or just filled their cart with more toilet paper then anyone could ever use.

So wash those filthy hands, cover your mouth when you cough, and take this time to be reading your Bible and going in prayer to the God who holds all things in His hands, including the interesting times in which we live. And for goodness’s sake, only buy toilet paper when you need it.

Faith says to trust God’s plan, wisdom says to wash your hands

Faith says to trust God’s plan, wisdom says to wash your hands

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Faith says to trust God’s plan, wisdom says to wash your hands.

Most of us know not to lick a doorknob. Somewhere, we’ve been taught that it is dirty and could make us sick. Yet many of us have had to be told of the importance of washing our hands recently because of the spread of the coronavirus.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs offers us just one of dozens of verses and teachings through scripture that tell us to trust God and have faith. When life is challenging like it is now with so many unknowns from economic to health concerns, we know God has a bigger plan in store for us. We know how His plan ends, with those who have put their faith in Jesus having a perfect life with Him for eternity, but we don’t know what happens between now and then. When it gets hard, it can be harder to trust in Him but that, again is what faith is—believing in Him and His word and believing His promises to be true.

We can’t see Him, the world doubts Him and yet we believe in the evidence we have, largely through Scripture and historical supports of it.

Faith tells us to trust His word to us in the Bible and that becomes where wisdom kicks in.

Throughout scripture, we’re given instruction and counseled to be wise. That means application of what we learn from scripture but also in life.

Proverbs 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

We can misapply faith into thinking that if I have enough, I won’t get sick—the poison from the snake bite won’t hurt me or the coronavirus won’t affect me.

So where most of know not to lick doorknobs, we still don’t always know or understand how to handle every situation we face. We can choose to simply trust God and blindly walk through life as if nothing bad could happen to us, or we trust God and the brain He gave. In that case, we make decisions based on information from what we know to be true in the Bible but also what we know from our experiences and the knowledge we’ve gained as we’ve grown. When we don’t have the knowledge we need, we seek and advice, use wisdom to assess and apply that information. We can come to the conclusion that the medical experts know more than me and that not only shouldn’t I lick a doorknob, but I should really wash my hands after I touch it, especially when out in public when the flu or other illnesses are spreading like the one we’re currently facing.

Faith and trust in God should give us peace instead of fearing what’s yet to come but wisdom is needed to navigate what happens on our path to wherever God is taking us.

We have to be willing to ask for help so others can answer God’s call

We have to be willing to ask for help so others can answer God’s call

It’s through showing kindness and helping others that we’re able to show Christ to them but at the same time, it also lets us share the gospel, telling them about the need for repentance and a saving faith in Jesus. And it’s through keeping fellow brothers and sisters in Christ supported that we can help them to continue on sharing Christ with others.

But if we understand that we’re supposed to help others, then we also know that it’s okay to receive and accept that help.

And we can’t always know if someone needs something if they don’t tell us or ask.

We aren’t supposed to go through this life alone. Over and over verses illustrate helping others or receiving help. There are often bigger lessons and teaching points in those verses but they still demonstrate how we’re meant to be in community.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Proverbs 31:8-9 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Each of these verses are part of bigger teaching and messages but they also point to our need to help others from praying for each other to helping those in need or to understanding that God made us and through our saving faith in Jesus, to do good.

Since we know we’re supposed to help others, we know that means it’s okay to need help. That means if someone doesn’t know the internal struggle we’re facing, we have to be willing to reach out and tell others so they can do what God has asked us to do – help each other. And we have to let them.

Our culture tells us to be weak but there’s strength in knowing when to ask for help

Our culture tells us to be weak but there’s strength in knowing when to ask for help

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys

There’s strength in knowing when to ask for help

of the Cross

Part 1 of 2

Struggles come and there’s nothing weak about knowing when you need to ask for help and getting it. Whether a ranch cowboy, rodeo cowboy or

bull rider, God made you to be tough but he didn’t make you stupid either; a cowboy needs to do things for himself but he also needs to know when it’s time to ask for help.

Our culture, the liberal one that dominates the messages we see from all directions, tells men to be weak, passive, in touch with their emotions and how ‘toxic’ we are because of the traditional ways we define ourselves. The rodeo and bull riding industry and the ranching and farming industries require men to be tough. Taking care of cattle isn’t for the feint of heart. Getting on the back of a bull or jumping off a horse to grab a steer take physical and mental strength. The image of a cowboy, no matter what form, is not of someone who is emotional

But there is real strength in getting help when you need it. You can continue fighting to get that serpentine belt back on your truck until there’s no skin on your knuckles or you can ask your buddy to drop by and help. And there is absolutely nothing weak about seeking professional help when the stress of bankruptcy and a fight with your wife has you feeling worthless and ready to walk away from everything.

Suicide is not the answer. It’s a quick solution for you and a lifetime of heartache for the ones left behind.

We need to grasp what it really means to be meek. Our culture suggests the word means being weak and walking away from taking a stand and while Jesus tells us to always forgive and turn the other cheek, he tells us in Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

We’re asked to be meek but absolutely do not mistake that for weakness. Jesus was God on Earth with the power to do anything include destroy those who would attack or undermine his ministry. Meekness is often defined as strength under control. That is real strength—being able to control yourself when you have the ability to use your strength and skills in a unChrist-like way.

Later, in Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

He doesn’t want us to be burdened. He wants us to let him carry our burdens and find peace in our relationship with him.

Jesus is supposed to be enough but sometimes the devil’s whisper in your ear gets so loud, you can’t hear the Savior calling to you. God’s word in scripture is supposed to be where we find hope, but sometimes we can understand the words but not bring them to bear fruit in what we’re going through.

God is sovereign. He gave us the system of government we have and while some of us were wired to be cowboys, he grew up other men and women to be health care providers for both our physical and mental health.

Knowing when to ask for help isn’t weak: it’s strength under control.

A bad day with cows can be turned around by the encouragement of prayer

A bad day with cows can be turned around by the encouragement of prayer

A bad day with cattle can be turned around by an encouraging prayer

By Scott Hilgendorff / Cowboys of the Cross

Two of three heifers delivered dead calves, the transmission just went out on the truck and it’s only two years old and now the weather has turned worse and three days of rain is turning into six with pastures looking like swamps. You haven’t prayed in weeks, it’s just been so busy and now, when you go to talk to God, you just feel angry and decide not to pray at all.

That’s when a friend sends you a text that says, “Hey man, I just want you to know my wife and I prayed for you this morning.”

They may or may not have known everything that was going on or what you needed but at a minimum, it feels pretty good knowing others are even thinking about you and, even better, you feel like you have something you can thank God about and it opens the door to pray again.

The encouragement

Part of Matthew 6:6 says, But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

We’re cautioned not to be like the Pharisees whose actions were often about calling attention to themselves as the religious elite that tried to control much of the behavior of the people of that time when it came to their relationship with God.

But we’re also called to encourage one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

The church was doing a good job of this but in his letter to them, Paul was encouraging them to keep it up.

Sometimes we don’t know how to help someone but praying for them can be the encouragement that gets a person through a day. Sometimes, it can be a moment where someone who isn’t a believer sees Christians in a positive light instead of the negative perceptions they had. Even asking someone how you can pray for them can be a non-intrusive way to open the door to talking about your faith. But I know at least one instance where telling someone they had been prayed for was the between life and death. It was answered prayer for them when they were asking God to show them that someone cared.

We have to trust the Holy Spirit to lead us to when it’s good to share that we’ve prayed or when we need to keep it behind a closed door. When we know it will encourage someone and it isn’t about seeking attention or appreciation, that’s usually a good time to tell the person it was done.

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